The statistics are disturbing. From 2001 through the end of 2007 — six years, there were 270 Jerusalem Arabs detained for involvement in terror. Now, in the course of just over six months in 2008, there have been 71 detained on terror related charges — an increase of roughly three-fold.
The Shin Bet is saying that current security measures in eastern Jerusalem are insufficient. One source said that it is necessary to enter the Arab neighborhoods more frequently to carry out more arrests and do more deterrence. There is a strong feeling that there is a connection between what is going on in Gaza, and the photos coming out of Gaza, and the radicalization of Jerusalem Arabs.
A serious part of the problem, of course, is that this terror is emanating from within. And, I might add for the record, it is emanating from comfortable, not poor, neighborhoods — plus, in all of the three recent instances, the terrorists were employed. These are not instances of desperation due to poverty. What we’re looking at is an increased radicalization of ideology that is fueled by Hamas.
The answer, however, is NOT to divide off eastern Jerusalem and give it to the PA so that these Arabs would no longer be within. There are at least two reasons for this. One is that the problem would only grow worse if we had no ability to enter the neighborhoods and do arrests and deterrence; the Hamas presence there would become stronger. Some of those radicalized would inevitably sneak into eastern Jerusalem, and in any event they would shoot rockets at western Jerusalem. (The parallel to this situation is our having pulled out of Gaza, which made things worse for us and solved no problems.)
The second is because Arab neighborhoods are interspersed between Jewish neighborhoods so that there is no clean line of division. It would be a logistic nightmare.
And then there is yet another reason: the PA would have no interest in assuming responsibility for these neighborhoods unless it also got the Old City and our most sacred site.
Plus, I might add, the Arab population that has Jerusalem residency IDs does not want to be transferred to the PA, thereby losing perks such as health care as well as essential civil rights. There is a percentage of this population that says if there is going to be a transfer of their neighborhoods to the PA, they will move elsewhere in Israel first — and legally they have a right to do this.
So…a serious problem.
We cannot run away from it, we cannot isolate the terrorists and ignore them. We need to be strong and to practice deterrence (which in the case of Gaza, which we are being told is not unconnected to this, means ultimately acting militarily).
Beginning immediately, Israeli police intend to more closely monitor Arab workers who are residents of eastern Jerusalem; there will be strict checks and patrols at construction sites.
My own immediate response after this attack — which I readily share with my readers — was that Jerusalem Arabs should no longer be permitted to work with heavy equipment in construction. What I subsequently discovered was that Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupoliansky was of the same mind. In a TV interview he said:
“We should reconsider the employment of these people…
“We see how, after the Shin Bet and Mossad do wonderful work and throw terror out the door, it comes back through the window. [In the hands of terrorists] tools of construction become opportunities for attacks.”
But then along came Public Security Minister Avi Dichter urging that Jerusalem Arabs not be denied employment:
“I have no doubt that this terrorist and the previous ones this year do not represent the residents of east Jerusalem. The overwhelming majority are regular people who work in various places in the city.”
And perhaps he’s right (although there is certainly growing Hamas support among Jerusalem Arabs). But the rub is that it only takes one terrorist to kill Jews and we seem never to know for certain who that terrorist will be.
Only last night, after the press conference I had attended, I was accosted on the street by an American tourist who saw the “Keep Jerusalem united” signs associates of mine were holding. She accused Israel of “collective punishment” with regard to checkpoints. She didn’t want to hear me when I told her that we were not attempting to do collective punishment, but rather to protect ourselves from the Arabs who would seek to kill us.
She had no response when I asked her, “Have you never heard on the news about suicide belts, and guns and knives caught at checkpoints?” She was too worried about unfair inconvenience to Arabs who are held up at those checkpoints. “I don’t want to be killed,” I told her simply. “If they stop trying to kill us, there will be no need for checkpoints.
And here you have the quandary. How is a desire to be fair to the Jerusalem Arabs, and allow them employment, balanced against our right to not be killed? Inconvenience, unemployment can be difficult — but these are not permanent situations. Death is forever — the ultimate abrogation of human rights.
Guess where PA President Mahmoud Abbas was when the terrorist attack took place yesterday? Less than a kilometer away at Beit HaNasi — the president’s house, visiting with President Shimon Peres. Right before the attack they had issued an optimistic statement regarding the coming of peace.
Not so peaceful, however, was another message that Abbas delivered to Israel yesterday. Abbas is feeling undermined (embarrassed?) by continuing IDF efforts against terrorists in cities such as Nablus and Jenin, where PA police have been deployed.
Abbas is due to meet with Olmert tomorrow and has declared that he will tell him that “if the incursions and the aggression and the insults to the Palestinian police continue, we will withdraw these forces.”
The IDF maintains that the PA often co-opts gunmen into its security forces instead of jailing them. Could it be that Abbas’s true embarrassment is not that the IDF operations make PA security forces look incompetent, but that fellow Palestinians, who just happen to be terrorists, are being harassed by the IDF while the PA is trying to protect them?
Khaled Abu Toameh reported in the Post recently about a different reason for the slow down in negotiations on Shalit: Hamas is accusing Egypt of not being an “honest broker,” which has Egypt quite infuriated. “Honest broker” means pushing harder on Israel to release more terrorists. Hamas began to put out hints regarding using the Germans for negotiations as they did well for Hezbollah.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has now said that if she becomes head of Kadima, she will invite Netanyahu (Likud) and Barak (Labor) to join her in a unity government.
Other members of Kadima, however, are saying that the in-fighting between Olmert and Livni weakens the party and thus weakens Livni’s chances of being selected as party head. It is felt that Shaul Mofaz just might be the winner on this. Maybe…